Despite the sanctions imposed due to Russia’s military aggression against Ukraine, many Western microchips and other parts continue to be found in Russian missiles. The problem is that Russia has created numerous channels of front companies in different countries that secretly purchase microchips. Even before the existing loopholes are closed, new chains of newly created firms are already beginning to function. It may seem that this problem cannot be solved in the context of global trade. However, there is an alternative solution to the problem and it lies in technological changes in microchips.

Russian missiles and Iranian-Russian attack drones use Western microchips that simultaneously support several Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS), these being the American GPS, European Galileo, Chinese Beidou and Russian GLONASS.

The Russian GLONASS system is created and maintained by the Russian Ministry of Defense. Although GLONASS can be used for civilian purposes, this system has at the same time several special closed data channels that the Russian military uses in their weapons. This is what allows Russian missiles and drones to attack Ukrainian cities and energy infrastructure with high accuracy.

Microchip companies, authorities of EU member states, USA, UK, Switzerland and Canada should study the possibility of making technological changes in microchips that would exclude support for the GLONASS system.

                Since Russia perceives the US, EU and UK as potential adversaries, the Russian Ministry of Defense will not use microchips in Russian missiles that do not support GLONASS and work only with GPS and Galileo signals. Certainly, the Russian military will not allow Russian missiles to be completely dependent on GPS and Galileo.  It is likely that the Russians will evaluate China’s Beidou in the long term in the same way.

                The proof of this is the fact that the general of the Russian Air and Space Forces points out that the military of NATO countries can, if necessary, distort the data in the open GPS channel. Thus, this makes it impossible for other countries (Russia) to reliably use GPS for military purposes. In addition, the Russian military admits the possibility of partial localized GPS shutdown. This makes it mandatory for them to be guided by GLONASS when producing Russian missiles.

                The elimination of GLONASS support in microchips will, at a minimum, lead to the need for changes in the design documentation of Russian missiles and lengthy testing of possible alternatives.

                Considering this problem globally, we can speak not only about supporting Ukraine at the current moment. It will also have the long-term impact on the security of citizens of Western countries. Despite hopes for a change in Russia’s policies after Putin’s death, it should be taken into account, other members of the security forces who are already war criminals and who will continue their aggressive policies to avoid punishment can come to power in Russia.

Therefore, the democratic coalition should prepare for a multi-year confrontation with aggressive Russia, which possesses nuclear weapons.  The international community should think twice if it is ready to continue to provide its technology for Russian missiles that will threaten European and American cities.

As a civil society organization Promote Ukraine call for social responsibility and foresight on the part of Western companies and politicians. We believe that in this issue, the individual commercial interests of microchip manufacturers should give way to the interests of global safety. Especially if these microchips are already banned from being supplied to Russia.

                First and foremost this appeal is addressed to those companies whose microchips have already been found in Russian missiles and Iranian-Russian drones. The Main Intelligence Directorate of the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense provides the following list: Antenova (UK), STMicroelectronics (Netherlands, Italy, France), Sierra Wireless / Semtech (Canada, US), NovAtel / Hexagon, (Canada, Sweden), Septentrio (Belgium), Linx Technologies / TE Connectivity (US), Broadcom (US), Qualcomm (US), Telit (US), Maxim Integrated / Analog Devices (US), Trimble (US), Cavli Wireless (US), U-blox AG (Switzerland).

                Western microchips are used in almost all Russian missiles and drones:

 Iskander, Kalibr and Kinzhal missiles, as well as aviation and cruise missiles X-101, X-555, X-38, X-59MK, X-31, as well as Iranian Shahed-136 drones, and Russian reconnaissance drone Orlan,  and Tornado-S and Smerch MLRS missiles.

                Russian missile strikes on Ukraine are repeatedly aimed at civilians. For example, on June 2022, Russia destroyed a shopping center in the city of Kremenchuk with an X-22 missile, which resulted in 21 civilians killed and more than 50 injured. On January 2023, the Russian army hit a residential building in Dnipro with an X-22 missile, with 46 people killed, and 80 injured. Recently, on August 21, 2023, Russia hit the center of Chernihiv with Iskander-type ballistic missile, killing 7 people and injuring 120.

These are only the attacks with the highest casualties are listed above. Already now Russia has been able to increase the production of missiles to 100 per month and since July 2023 Ukraine has been subjected to missile attacks almost every week. And with the onset of winter, new massive missile attacks on the energy system are expected, which could cause a huge humanitarian catastrophe for millions of Ukrainians.

We call on microchip manufacturers to provide clear and public answers to the following questions:

1) Is it possible in principle to make technological changes to their microchips, which would rule out the possibility of using them for the GLONASS system?

2) How much time can it take for scientific development, changes in production technology, and other actions necessary to exclude the support GLONASS in their products?

3) If complete elimination of GLONASS support is not possible, is it possible to make changes that will make their microchips unstable in the system or make them much more difficult to use for GLONASS?

                We call on politicians and government officials to take an active role in analyzing and implementing the above proposed technological solution to Russia’s purchase of microchips to circumvent sanctions.

Sources used in this article:

Russian military officers about GLONASS:

2015. Interview with Major General A.N. Nestechuk, Chief of Staff of the 15th Army of the Russian Air and Space Special Forces.

Key Quotations:

General: … As analysis of recent armed conflicts has shown, the enemy is actively using the ability to introduce deliberate corrections to the navigation characteristics of their systems for disinformation. And we can’t count on the information we get from GPS receivers.

Reporter: Did I understand you correctly that in the American GPS system there are military closed modes, purely for use by the Pentagon and NATO allies, and there are open modes, and in these open modes they can introduce special amendments that actually make it impossible for other states (Russia) that would use the GPS system to solve military tasks?

General: And we would hate for our consumers to be exposed to the kind of amendments that you mentioned.  Yes, indeed, they are using it.

Reporter: That’s very interesting. Honestly, that’s the first time I’ve heard of that. I was aware of the fact that a «supostat» (adversary) could shut down access for users altogether, but not that in open mode adjustments affecting the exact location of the definition are possible.

April 2022. In an interview, Dmitry Dyakonov, chief designer of the Iskatel Design Bureau at the Moscow Aviation Institute, points out that Russian missiles do not use GPS, but other navigation systems.

How Russia circumvents sanctions and buys Western microchips:

Victims of Russian missile attacks in Ukraine:

Position of some microchip manufacturers on circumventing sanctions:

Sergiy Bolhov

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